Revenue stalemate threatens food program

Revenue stalemate threatens food program

The Legislature’s stalemate over revenue-raising measures could force the state to opt out of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

Number of the Day

$25,000 -  The average pay gap between spouses after the first child turned one year old, more than double the average pay gap two years before the birth of the child. (Source: Census Bureau via NY Times)

The Legislature’s stalemate over revenue-raising measures could force the state to opt out of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). The budget passed by the Legislature and signed by Gov. John Bel Edwards during the second special session includes a 24.2 percent cut to the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) – the state agency that administers SNAP – which amounts to nearly $35 million. If that comes to pass, state officials say Louisiana would be the first state to opt out of the federal food assistance program.  Read more in a new blog post by LBP’s Policy Director Jeanie Donovan:

That would be a disaster for the nearly 900,000 Louisiana citizens who need help each month to afford food. Louisiana has the second-highest rate of food insecurity in the country, and 1 in 5 Louisiana residents currently use SNAP benefits to put food on the table each month. Two-thirds of those receiving benefits in Louisiana are children, seniors, and people with disabilities.

Low-income families and grocery retailers are two obvious beneficiaries of the SNAP program, but one lesser known beneficiary is farmers. Farmers markets across the state accept federal food benefits as a form of payment. Kathryn Parker, executive director of the Crescent City Farmers Market, explains in a letter to | The Times-Picayune:

Since 2005, shoppers have been using their SNAP benefits with farmers and fishers at the Crescent City Farmers Market. Every year we have observed SNAP sales increasing at our markets. This is a win-win: Shoppers can access the best produce in our region while supporting small farmers and fishers. In the past year, with just four locations, the Crescent City Farmers Market has accepted more than $35,000 in SNAP benefits, money that is spent with local farmers and fishers. Small food-producing families in the state are struggling to keep their farms and fisheries profitable. For small fruit and vegetable growers, farming can be a low-profit business. Farmers and fishers in Louisiana have had more than their fair share of disasters: floods, hurricanes and even an oil spill. All income to these family-run businesses is important.


Taxing the green
Prescription medications are one of the items that are not subject to state sales taxes, along with groceries and residential utilities, but an interesting exception is emerging. Medical marijuana, which is expected to be available to patients later this year, will be subject to state sales tax. This is because marijuana will be recommended by physicians, not prescribed. In practice, a recommendation isn’t different from a prescription. Patients will be required to get a recommendation in order to access the drug at one of the state-approved pharmacies. But the nuance is important to shield physicians from federal law, which still classifies marijuana as an illegal Schedule I drug. Taxing pot will bring in some revenue, but not nearly as much as proponents often suggest. Sam Karlin of The Advocate reports:

It is not clear how much revenue the sales tax on medical marijuana will raise. A report from the Colorado consultant Marijuana Policy Group in 2016 estimated the market for chronic pain alone could generate between $3.7 million and $4.7 million, assuming a 4 percent sales tax rate. But those numbers assume the program is fully embraced by the medical community, which is an open question.


Pregnancy discrimination exposed
Women across the United States have long reported the same story: they’re performing well in a job they love, and then they get pregnant. Suddenly, their ability to do their job is questioned. Many are laid off or fired outright by employers who don’t want to pay for their health care or make accommodations in the workplace. Pregnancy discrimination is illegal, but if you talk to many women with families, it’s rampant. Natalie Kitroeff and Jessica Silver-Greenberg of The New York Times helped some of these women tell their stories:

In 2013, a year after she arrived, Mr. Freshwater described Ms. Murphy in a performance review as “one of the hardest working” colleagues. In a performance review the next year, he called her a “strong leader” who is “diligent, conscientious and determined.” But when Ms. Murphy told Mr. Freshwater she was pregnant with her first child, he told her it would “definitely plateau” her career, she said in the affidavit. In 2016, she got pregnant with her second child. One afternoon, Mr. Freshwater announced to the trading floor that the most-read article on the BBC’s website was about pregnancy altering women’s brains. Ms. Murphy, clearly showing, was the only pregnant woman there.


Do ACT/SAT scores matter?
At the beginning of June, Yale University announced it would no longer be requiring applicants to submit the writing scores from the standardized admissions exams, joining a growing rank of elite postsecondary institutions that are working to address disparities in access to quality higher education. The writing portion of the tests isn’t available at all testing locations, and some students may find it difficult to get to a testing location that offers it. The tests are expensive, and many schools offer free administration of the tests during the school day without the essay portion, which means some students who apply to schools that require the essay portion would have to take the test a second time at full cost. Nick Anderson of The Washington Post reports:

“We hope this will enable more students who participate in school-day administrations of the SAT or ACT to apply to Yale without needing to register for an additional test,” Yale said in an email to counselors. Few schools now require applicants to take the tests with essays. Among those that do are the University of California and Stanford, Princeton, Duke and Brown universities. Most of the Ivy League has dropped the requirement. Selective colleges typically require students to submit one or more essays with their applications, and they also look closely at performance in English classes.

On Thursday, the highly-selective University of Chicago announced it will drop the ACT/SAT requirement altogether. Applicants will still have the option of submitting scores for consideration if they feel it will help their chances of admission, but choosing not to will not count against them. University of Chicago administrators say the move is part of a broader strategy to recruit more students from low- and middle-income families:

With the change in admissions policy will come a significant boost in financial aid. The university is announcing a guarantee of free tuition for students from families with income under $125,000 a year. For most students with annual family income below $60,000, financial aid will cover tuition, fees, room and board. U-Chicago’s full price for students without aid is more than $70,000 in the coming school year. The university also announced more scholarships targeting first-generation college students and children of police officers and firefighters.


Number of the Day:
$25,000 –  The average pay gap between spouses after the first child turned one year old, more than double the average pay gap two years before the birth of the child. (Source: Census Bureau via NY Times)